I have been thinking a lot about labour and birth recently, for obvious reasons. I thought it would be good to write down Roo’s birth story before I have another to forget about writing! Beware, this is very long.
To set the scene, it was 2014 and I had been off work for 3 and a half weeks. High blood pressure caused me to leave work early, but had settled down once I was getting more rest. I was 39 weeks and 5 days along.
My wife B was in the early stages of recovery from a traumatic brain injury she sustained when I was 29 weeks. She was working a few hours a day, but required a nap each afternoon to function.
All of our immediate family lived in other cities. However, I was hopeful that my mother would be able to fly in in time for the birth.
My birth plan was quite open, I just wanted a baby at the end of it. My mother had a emergency caesarean with me, and I was prepared for that to happen to me as well. I didn’t have any ideas about a dream birth, I just planned to see what happened and trust in my midwife.
On the Thursday morning I woke up at about 5 am to mild cramps, which came and went. I started to time them, and they were about 6 minutes apart. I lay in bed for 20 minutes as they got slightly closer together.
I got up to go to the bathroom, and had diarrhea. At this point I knew that things were happening! I called my mum at about 6am and she said she would leave for the airport asap.
By about 7am my contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart, which frightened me a bit as everything seemed to be progressing much faster than I expected.
I called my midwife who asked if I wanted her to visit our house our meet her at the hospital. I chose the hospital as it all seemed to be happening quickly. In retrospect, this is probably the one decision I would change given how things turned out.
B and I showered and packed the last few things in the bag before heading to the hospital (about a 2 minute drive). My contractions were reasonably painful, but bearable and I was feeling good.
The midwife met us at the labour ward at 9am. We got a very nice room with an ensuite and birthing pool.
A check of my cervix showed I was only 3cm dilated, but the midwife said that since we were here anyway, we could settle in.
My contractions continued to be 2-4 minutes apart, but only about 45 seconds long… for the next 7 hours. I did a lot of walking the corridors. My midwife had a tens machine, which was very helpful in managing the pain. I will definitely be hiring one this time around.
My mum arrived at about 10.30am. I was very glad to see her. It also meant that B could go home for a sleep, which I think she did about 12pm.
All of the times from here on are approximate as I can’t remember very clearly. Which isn’t because of the time passing, I couldn’t remember clearly what had happened the day after she was born – hormones and exhaustion I guess.
I had a play list B made for me and focusing on the music helped a lot. But while B was away (maybe 2.30pm) the music stopped working for some reason and I found that difficult. I’m not so good with technology and I couldn’t focus enough to work out what was wrong with it.
Looking back, that was the point where my ability to manage the pain started to slip. B came back about 3pm I think. At some point after that my midwife suggested that I try the bath to catch a bit of a break. The water slowed down the contractions, but they weren’t any less painful. Without the tens machine I actually felt worse, so I decided to get out.
After it all seemed to be much worse. I didn’t articulate what I needed very well, and I lost the ‘zone’ in which I had been managing the pain. I didn’t get the tens machine put back on. I tried the gas and air, but it didn’t seem to do anything but make me feel nauseous.
At around 4pm the midwife checked my cervix and I was only 4cm dilatated. I was very disheartened by the lack of progress. She recommend breaking my waters to speed up the process, and I said sure but give me a epidural.
By about 6pm I had the epi, my waters were broken and I was also on a pictocin drip. This started a calm break in the process. I didn’t feel any pain, and I was able to relax for the first time in hours. I couldn’t move off the bed, but that was fine. I got to talk to B and my mum and rest a little.
About 9.30pm my midwife went off to sleep for an hour and the hospital midwives kept an eye on me. Probably only about 10 minutes after she left things started to go downhill.
The fetal monitor showed that Roo’s heart rate was dipping significantly with each contraction. A range of staff would rush into the room, look at the print out and then rush out again. It was a bit scary.
They decided to place a monitor on Roo’s scalp for more accurate readings. The pictocin drip was also turned off at some point. The dips in Roo’s heart rate continued and I was also having heart issues.
Doctors, nurses and midwives continued to come in and out. B and I were getting very worried by this point. At some point my midwife came back and I was very glad to see her.
The obstetrician in the ward came to talk to us at about 11.15 pm. She said the head of department had reviewed the heart rate data and instructed her to perform a emergency caesarean asap. I was terrified, but also sort of fatalistic as I had kind of expected to end up at that point.
My midwife asked to talk to her out of the room. They came back in and said that they would check my dilation and if I was ready to push they would check with the head of department about having a chance.
It turned out that I was fully dialated and I was given 15 min to make significant progress in delivery or they would transfer me to theatre for the caesarean. I started pushing at 11.30 pm and Roo was born at 12.04 am.
I can barely remember that 34 minutes. But they included:
- About 10 medical personnel being in the room
- One of the stirrups on the bed was broken and my mum held my leg
- Me trying to follow instructions but not feeling anything after I pushed the epi button at the mention of a caesarean
- Someone decided to try a ventouse delivery
- The cup popped off Roo’s head and blood sprayed everywhere, B thought they had pulled her head off
- It worked the second time and she came out face up with her eyes open
Roo was placed on my chest for a minute before being grabbed by the pediatrician who needed to support her breathing. She was given back after about 40 minutes and I was able to hold her as we were transferred to the ward.
I had a reasonably large cut sewn up while I was waiting for Roo. I have never had a measurement of it or anything. B went with Roo to the baby table. I was pretty much just in shock at that point I think.
In the end we had a healthy baby and healthy mama. I have no traumatic memories of the birth. It was dramatic, but I was asked about every step. I feel like everyone wanted the best for us all.
I will try to do a few things differently this time around, but I am happy with the outcome from Roo’s birth.